SUMMERSIDE - Unhappy with the lack of movement on the part of the province on municipal applications for the new Build Canada Fund, the City of Summerside contacted Infrastructure Canada on the status of the program.
The city held a conference call recently, with Vanessa Schneider and Nathan Cato, senior policy advisers to federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel.
Mayor Basil Stewart said what the city found out from the call is that the statements by the province don’t jibe with what the federal government is saying about the program.
“We’re trying to find out what is going on,” the mayor said. “The province is telling us that they are not accepting applications. They are not prepared. Now we’re finding out that six or seven provinces have already processed applications.”
Stewart said the city was advised that the province has multiple applications in to be processed, although neither Schneider nor Cato would reveal any details about those projects.
“We suspect that one is for the (third New Brunswick and P.E.I. power) cable,” Stewart said. “And that’s fine if it’s good for the city’s electric utility and for the city.
We’re concerned that something may be discussed in regards to electricity for P.E.I. Since we have approximately 12 per cent of the Island’s electricity, let us know what’s being talked about. We’re all trying to figure out why everything is so secretive if the province is discussing these things.”
The mayor said for years, the city has had a hard time getting to the table when it comes to electrical or energy discussions when it involves Summerside.
“The last time the cable deal was put together a number of years ago, we were left out of that one,” Stewart said. “We’re trying to make sure that we get a fair deal out of this. I certainly hope that we are not being affected to the negative in any way, if it is the cable.
There is $277 million that’s in the pot and 10 per cent is coming to the province over 10 years for municipalities. Council is very concerned but we’re trying to be fair on this. We’re part of the Island too and we’re in the electrical business. We want to be at least at the table.”
Stewart said he understands that there may be funding being sought for two cables at a cost of $140 million from the $227 million fund allocation. He said if that is the case, it doesn't leave much for the municipalities.
The province has continually told the city that the parameters of the Build Canada Fund program are still being negotiated.
In June, P.E.I. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey said the province is in negotiations with Lebel's office.
"This is a 10-year program so we're trying to get the best deal we can for Islanders," said Vessey. “It's taking a bit of time.”
Stewart said that was not the word the city received from Ottawa.
He said as a result of the call, the city found out it can make applications to the Build Canada Fund.
“We were led to believe that there were negotiations and now they tell us that there are no negotiations ongoing,” Stewart said. “Infrastructure Canada is not in discussions or negotiations with any province or territory regarding the framework of the agreement,” he said. “This program is the exact same across Canada and is not up for discussions. So, whatever is going on we’re trying to find out. Infrastructure Canada has been accepting applications since March 28 when it was announced. Multiple applications from our province are in. We don’t know what they are.”
“From what we hear the Build Canada Fund is in place and they are accepting applications. The feds are processing applications all across the country,” Stewart said.
Vessey could not be reached for comment.